Apart from exam-related stress, students across the country have been calling the Central Board of Secondary Education (CBSE) toll-free helpline seeking advice on personal matters such as memory loss, ill-treatment by their parents or even break-ups,Hindustan Times reports.
A total of 91 counsellors based in India and abroad have been answering queries of students in the run-up to the Class 10 and 12 board exams starting March 5.
Officials said that even though most questions asked by students are related to exam stress, memory loss, inability to concentrate and career options, but many students also end up sharing their personal problems with the counsellors.
“I had a break up recently and I don’t feel like studying at all. I can’t think about anything else but her,” a Delhi-based counsellor quoted a Class 12 student.
Another counsellor said she received a call from a student complaining about her father and how he mistreats her in front of everyone. “’He doesn’t understand me and scolds me all the time. What should I do?’ This was a Class 12 student,” one of the counsellors said.
Counsellors said that perhaps the most common question they are asked is: “How to remember what I have studied?” They said that most students say they study hard and yet find themselves forgetting answers as exams approach.
“I get many calls where students complain about forgetting what they have studied. It is the fear of the unknown (exam) that makes them go blank. I ask them to focus on certain topics in one day and revise,” said Chand Trehan, a Jammu-based freelance psychologist and counsellor with CBSE.
Between February 1 and February 23, the CBSE helpline — 1800-11-8004 — has received a total of 6,428 calls. The counsellors, many of whom are working with private and government schools as teachers and counsellors, are spread across the country and are based in different cities.
“We have a database of all counsellors known for their work and we write to them if they can work with us. Many of them have been working with us for years. A training session is held with them before the helpline is made functional,” said a CBSE official.
Around 20 lakh students will be sitting for Class 12 and Class 10 CBSE board exams this year. This will be after a gap of six years that Class 10 board exams have been made compulsory.
“The anonymity and impersonal relationship between us, gives them the confidence to be uninhibited with us, so they ask us even their most personal problems,” said Sukhmeen Kaur Cheema, a trained counsellor with a private school in Delhi. Cheema says she has been working with the CBSE for six years.
CBSE has a standard operating procedure for answering the students’ questions, which every counsellor follows. But many a times the counsellors are thrown off guard by what they hear on the phone.
One such time was when Sona Kaushal Gupta, a Dehradun-based counsellor, received a call from a Class 12 student who said she was contemplating suicide as she could not cope with the pressure of performing well.
“My life has no meaning and I want to end it. My parents are not home so I am going to do it now,” the student told Gupta.
“She said her parents are well educated and they live in a society where education, and especially science education, is considered a measure of success. She was forced to take science stream even though she wanted to study humanities and become a writer,” said Gupta, a neurosurgeon by profession.
Gupta took down the number of the caller’s parents and called them to counsel them to understand their daughter. “I appreciated her creative writing abilities and asked her to take the exam and pursue writing after Class 12,” she said.
A team of six operators sit at the CBSE’s headquarters in Delhi where all the calls are received. “We get two kind of calls — one is about administrative issues such as uploading signature and photo, and others seeking counselling. We take basic details of students and transfer the call to a counsellor,” said Suraj Yadav, who has been working with CBSE for two years.
Out of 6,428 calls, about 4,322 are queries regarding forms, spelling mistakes, and downloading sample papers. The remaining 2,106 calls are counselling-related and are handled by the trained counsellors, said Rama Sharma, CBSE’s spokesperson.